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Why I Stuck a Flare Up My A**e for England | The Lowry

Following a successful run at London’s Southwark Playhouse, the interestingly titled Why I Stuck A Flare Up My A**e for England returned for one night only at The Lowry Theatre in Salford. This one man show focuses on a true story of an English football fan who made the headlines for obvious reasons. 

Written and performed by Alex Hill, Billy and Adam are best friends and die hard football fans from an early age. Growing up together on the terraces at AFC Wimbledon, football is their life and there is no other place they would rather be. Billy and Adam’s relationship is tested when a group of football hooligans attempt to take them both under their wing. The piece is a testament to the emotional bond that football can bring to a friendship, whilst also shining a light on toxic masculinity.

Inspired by the event that made national news of an English fan putting a flare up his bum before the EURO 2020 final between England and Italy, Hill has written a play that starts at this comical point but takes audiences on an hilarious yet emotional journey deeper than the title would suggest. Instantly setting the tone for the piece, Hill bounces around the stage like tigger with endless energy. It perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere of an international football match and the chaos that is becoming all too familiar, before the piece takes a dramatic turn allowing Hill to demonstrate the darker side of the beautiful game.

Hill plays all the characters in this one man show with each character instantly recognisable, from the full of energy ‘Jack the lad’ Billy, to the leader of the pack football hooligan 'Wine Gum’. Wine Gum has a profound impact on the pair of friends, leading them down a path of drink, drugs and violence all too familiar in the world of football fans. Hill is able to switch between these characters comically and without hesitation.  The piece at just sixty minutes long feels the perfect length for many themes to be explored. From throwaway homophobic comments, to racist remarks that to some are just part of the ‘football banter’ are highlighted, and towards the climax of the piece, a shift in tone to the greater emotional connection between audience and Billy ensues.

Whilst the staging appears basic with minimal props used and set against a backdrop of England flags, Hills’ lively performance captivates the audience from start to finish and fills the stage throughout. Simple but effective use of lighting (Matt Cater) moves the story from the location of the stands of Wembley to the local pub. Sound design (Sam Baxter) elevates the piece with all the sounds you would expect to hear at a football match, as-well as radio interviews with ‘Billy’ on why he stuck a flare up his a**e. The moment in question is dramatised twice (though not literally), each time with a different meaning which highlighted the cleverness of the writing. With a rise of football related programming such as the Olivier Award winning Dear England’s successfully running, do not miss the opportunity to see this fantastic piece of theatre. It once again heads to the Edinburgh Fringe before a short U.K. Tour.

Whilst this is a story based around football, non football enthusiasts would still enjoy this piece of theatre as it’s ultimately a story about friendship, humanity and how the influence of others affect our choices. Football and theatre have a synergy and Alex Hill has hit the back of the net with this entertaining yet thought provoking play. Set only a stone’s throw away from Manchester United’s ‘theatre of dreams’ Old Trafford, Why I Stuck A Flare Up My A**e for England has scored a big victory here. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | Photography by Rah Petherbridge


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